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Corona del Mar Aquatics coach Kelly Rulon inducted into USA Water Polo Hall of Fame

Kelly Rulon takes a shot during the 2007 NCAA women's water polo title match.
Kelly Rulon takes a shot during the 2007 NCAA women’s water polo title match. Rulon helped UCLA beat Stanford 5-4 to earn its 100th NCAA team championship.
(Don Liebig / UCLA)

Kelly Rulon quickly settled in as a coach after winning a gold medal with the U.S. women’s water polo national team at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Rulon, a Costa Mesa resident, started coaching club water polo with Corona del Mar Aquatics in 2013.

Rulon, 36, is surely happy to help the next generation achieve its goals.

“Sports is so important to these young kids,” she said Thursday in a phone interview. “It keeps them off of the phone, it keeps them disciplined and it prepares them for life.”

But it was Rulon’s achievements that were the focus as she was inducted into the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame on Wednesday night in a virtual ceremony.

“I was very appreciative and thankful for the honor and the people that spoke about me, and it brought back some amazing memories,” she said. “It was great. I mean, those were some of the best years of my life.”

Kelly Rulon speaks during the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame virtual induction ceremony on Wednesday.
Kelly Rulon speaks during the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame virtual induction ceremony on Wednesday.
(Screenshot by Matt Szabo)

Rulon, originally from the San Diego area, burst onto the scene. The driver turned 19 years old during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, helping Team USA win the bronze medal.

She was also a part of four national championships at UCLA, in 2003 and 2005-07. In her junior year, Rulon earned 2006 NCAA Tournament MVP honors after scoring 11 goals in the three matches, which included a 9-8 title match win over USC.

Despite deaths, accidents and a mass shooting, the U.S. Olympic women’s water polo team has climbed back from adversity again and again.

Rulon earned the Peter J. Cutino Award, annually awarded to the college Player of the Year, in 2007. She had 70 goals and team-best totals of 52 assists and 42 steals for the Bruins, helping UCLA become the first school to win 100 total NCAA Division I championships.

Rulon got married to Newport Beach Water Polo Club coach Stefano Ragosa in 2014 and they have two boys; John Paulo is 5 years old and Leo is 2. She made sure to thank her parents, her coaches and her teammates during her speech.

Current U.S. women’s water polo national team coach Adam Krikorian was previously the head coach at UCLA, where he won 11 national titles, eight with the women’s team and three with the men’s team. Rulon contributed to four of those titles, plus the 2012 Olympic crown.

“Our success obviously coincided with her journey,” Krikorian said in a prerecorded video during the ceremony. “I’ve been extremely fortunate to have someone like her in my life as an athlete, but honestly it’s just as much of a pleasure to have her as a friend. She’s someone who I still really enjoy talking to when I get the opportunity.”

Rulon’s former national team teammate, Elsie Windes, was also inducted into the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame on Wednesday, along with two-time Olympian and decorated coach Gavin Arroyo, veteran referee and Olympic Games administrator Gary Robinett and former USA Water Polo executive director and water polo historian Bruce Wigo.

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